PLYMOUTH Albion full-back Matt Shepherd returns to Cornwall’s team for Sunday’s County Championship final against Cheshire at Twickenham (5.45pm).
Shepherd missed Cornwall’s 50-20 group win over Devon two weeks ago due to injury, but he will wear the number 15 shirt at Twickenham.
He joins fellow Albion players Jon Dawe and Frazer Honey in the starting line-up, while Seti Raumakita is named on the bench.
Shepherd and Jon Dawe know what it is like to win at English rugby’s HQ having done so twice before in 2015 and 2016, when Cornwall beat Lancashire and Cheshire, respectively.
The Duchy will be playing in their sixth final in seven years on Sunday. They have won two and lost three of their last five finals, but hope to even that out this weekend.
Head coach Graham Dawe is hoping the Duchy players grab their chance to write another piece of Cornish rugby history and bring the championship trophy back across the Tamar for only the sixth time in 130 years.
“Reaching the final is very pleasing for this group of players,” said Dawe, who has now coached both Devon and Cornwall to five finals.
“The players really deserve credit for giving everything at the end of a long season. Hopefully, they can produce a performance to match the occasion.
“Twickenham is a nice stadium and it is a great occasion to play there. It will produce some great memories for the players and you just want the players to do themselves justice.”
Dawe has been involved in more than 20 Twickenham cup finals for Bath, Cornwall, Devon and Plymouth Albion, but he says going to rugby’s HQ never gets boring.
“You don’t get involved in sport to get bored,” he said. “There’s always challenges and intrigue.”
He is expecting a tough challenge from Cheshire, who finished ahead of Yorkshire and Lancashire in the northern pool. Their squad is based around National League sides Caldy, Macclesfield and Sale FC.
“We don’t know a lot about them,” said Dawe. “We know they topped the north group and we have picked up odd bits and pieces about their players and how they would like to play and defend.
“But it is just about us trying to impose ourselves on them. We need a good set piece and the ability to bruise their defence and keep them guessing. Hopefully, we can do some things that will stretch their defence.”
Cornwall are likely to be cheered on by a large backing at Twickenham, even despite of the late kick-off.
“It is always good to play in front a large group of supporters in those distinctive colours,” said Dawe. “That backing is really good, but it will not guarantee you the win.”
Meanwhile, Cornwall’s Jack Oulton (Redruth) and Alex Ducker (Camborne) and Devon’s Albion players Dan Mugford and John Kelly have been selected to tour Georgia with England Counties. The team will play two games on June 7 and June 11.
Cornwall: 15 Matt Shepherd (Plymouth Albion), 14 John Dawe (Plymouth Albion), 13 Jack Simmons (Redruth), Richie Keverne (Redruth), Alex Ducker (Camborne), 10 Frazer Honey (Plymouth Albion), 9 Jack Oulton (Redruth), 1 Dan Job (Lanner), 2 Rob Elloway (St Ives), 3 Jess Tompsett (Redruth), 4 Tony Whittle (Camborne), 5 Ben Hilton (capt, Barnstaple), 6 Edd Pascoe (Royal Navy), 7 Sam Stevens (Redruth), 8 Brad Howe (Redruth). Reps: 16 Matt Ballard (Wadebridge), 25 Craig Williams (Redruth), George Jones (Penryn), 19 Grant Randlesome (Penryn), 20 Taron Peacock (Camborne), 21 Dean Bonds (Redruth), 22 Seti Raumakita (Plymouth Albion/Royal Navy)